Akron organizers call for police reform at press conference

Several organizing groups in Akron released a full list of police demands at a Thursday morning news conference following the shooting death of Jayland Walker by Akron police.

The Freedom BLOC, Serve the People Akron, and Akron Democratic-Socialists of America criticized the city’s response to the ongoing protests following the police shooting.

The groups have said they refuse to negotiate with the Akron Police Department or the Mayor’s office over what they say is a violation of the US Constitution, criticizing the continued use of tear gas and arrests of ” peaceful protesters” over the past week.

“We can’t have negotiations or conversations until there’s immediate and lasting accountability,” said Freedom BLOC executive director Ray Greene.

Key demands on the list include the creation of a civilian review board for the police department, the abolition of police pursuits, the disarming of police and security at protests, and more.

Speakers recited their request for the names of the officers who shot Walker, who have not yet been released.

Failure to negotiate on those terms, organizers said, “will likely exacerbate community unrest”, signaling plans for continued protests in the coming weeks.

Mayor Horrigan responds

In a statement to The Beacon Journal, Mayor Dan Horrigan responded to the list of demands, saying he understands the people of Akron have “valid frustrations and anger at this time” and that he is committed to transparency and community engagement as the situation continues to evolve.

“I remain willing to come to the table and have the difficult and important conversations we need to have,” Horrigan said in a written statement. “I understand that some organizers won’t or won’t be able to speak at this time and I respect that, but I want to make it clear that when they are ready to speak I will be there.”

Horrigan suggests using an experienced, third-party, independent mediator to continue the dialogues.

“In the meantime, we all have a role to play in defusing the violence in our city and condemning the unlawful acts of those who intentionally and violently disrupt those who wish to peacefully express their views,” he said. “I call on everyone to call for peace in our city.”

News conference organizers sharply criticized the police response to Monday’s protest outside Horrigan’s home, where SWAT vehicles and officers armed with assault rifles were dispatched. Two protesters were arrested.

“We came with pieces of paper,” said Ben Gifford, Akron DSA’s finance president. “They came with guns, bulletproof vests and tanks. Mayor Horrigan showed us all how little he thought of us that day, how willing he was to spend the money of our public taxes to field a small army.”

Among those who marched to Horrigan’s home, some protesters were seen openly carrying guns. Neither tanks nor the National Guard were deployed to respond to the protests.

The full press release from the organizers can be found below.

A statement from the Akron organizers on implementing change in our city. (1).pdf

Journalist Abbey Marshall is a corps member of Report for America, a national service program that places reporters in local newsrooms. Learn more at reportforamerica.org. Contact her at amarshall[email protected]

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